BJ's Wholesale Club Gas

Florida Appeals Court Backs BJ’s In Gas Price Fight

BJ's Wholesale Club Gas
BJ’s Wholesale Club Gas

Rejecting arguments of a competitor, a state appeals court Wednesday said a BJ’s Wholesale Club in Broward County did not violate a law barring retailers from selling below-cost gasoline.

A three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal upheld a circuit judge’s ruling that a BJ’s in Parkland did not sell gas to the “motoring public” because its customers were wholesale club members.

Sun Gas Marketing & Petroleum LLC, which operates a nearby gas station, alleged BJ’s violated a law known as the Motor Fuel Marketing Practices Act, which prevents a “retail outlet” from selling gas “below non-refiner cost, where the effect is to injure competition,” according to Wednesday’s ruling.

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The law defines a retail outlet as a place where gas is sold to the “motoring public.” BJ’s argued it does not sell to the “motoring public” because it sells to members.

A Broward County circuit judge and the appeals court panel agreed with the argument.

“The plain and ordinary meaning of ‘the public’ is people as a whole,” said Wednesday’s decision, written by Judge Martha Warner and joined by Chief Judge Mark Klingensmith and Judge Cory Ciklin. “Thus, the meaning of ‘the motoring public’ must be understood as motorists as a whole. The MFMPA (Motor Fuel Marketing Practices Act) unambiguously defines a ‘retail outlet’ as a facility that sells motor fuel to the ‘motoring public.’ Since BJ’s only sells motor fuel to its members and not all motorists, BJ’s is not a ‘retail outlet’ within the statutory definitions.”

The decision added that if “the statutory language is inconsistent with the broader legislative intent to encourage competition, Sun Gas should look to the Legislature for amendment of the statutory definition.”

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